The San Francisco Giants continue to cling to a thread when it comes to their chance of playing baseball in October.
And most fans rightfully believe the 2018 version of the San Francisco Giants doesn’t have what it takes to come back from deficits in crowded NL West and Wild Card races.
The team has battled injuries and underperforming seasons from supposedly dependable veterans, but several surprise contributors have established themselves as key pieces. Dereck Rodriguez, Alen Hanson, Derek Holland (though an impending free agent), Reyes Moronta, and Austin Slater all fit that description.
Today, I want to focus on another player in that category, outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
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Admittedly, I thought it was pointless to keep Gorkys on the roster for this year after a sub-par 2017 (.652 OPS, -0.7 dWAR). However, Giants brass decided to keep him on for another shot at maintaining a bench spot, and he has rewarded them with a solid .740 OPS and 13 homers while earning starts all over the outfield.
With at least three years of team control remaining over the soon-to-be 31-year old, Gorkys has seemingly hit his way into the plans for the 2019 Giants.
So what has Gorkys done differently this year? Well, he’s hitting balls a whole lot harder and swinging a little more than he used to when he gets his pitch (via Fangraphs). As such, he’s improved his exit velocity and also his launch angle, which are all the rage in today’s game (via Baseball Savant).
After this season, both Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence will be free agents. Steven Duggar should be the best option in center, but Gorkys could remain in the conversation to start at a corner spot – unless the team surprisingly spends big on free agents in both right and left field.
That said, when the offseason is over, I would be disappointed if the Giants didn’t find a way to snag at least one solid free agent for the outfield – which would leave the other spot up for grabs between Gorkys, Slater, Hanson, and whoever other potential additions they bring in.
Gorkys interestingly enough has reverse splits, meaning he hits righties better than lefties as a right-handed hitter. In my mind, the ideal scenario for him would be to get at least half of the at-bats at one position while being insurance for the other outfield positions.
Hopefully, the Venezuelan’s effective bat and steady enough glove remain through the end of the season and he sets himself up for a nice role in 2019.